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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Compact Living in an Eco-Conscious World

By Shireen Qudosi

Partly due to the green movement raising an awareness of how much our resources we’re wasting, these days, even the rich and famous are selling off their islands in an attempt to reel in from flushing a green resource of another variety on unnecessary real estate. As for the rest of us, we're trying to cut back on spending habits and downscale from our humble abode, to perhaps an even more humble abode. The trends these days is perhaps not even just to get a smaller apartment, but to get the most compact home possible for your lifestyle.

This comes as a big surprise in an era where we love super sizing everything from our food to our cars. But with the economy spiraling downward and pink slips being handed out left and right, many people are finding that small living is smart living.

Small Room Set Backs

Yet, there are a few possible problems with smaller living, even if you live in a space of 350 sq. ft (and yes, some people actually do!). Some are even choosing to take portable homes and relocate to rural areas, while others hitching them up to their cars and hitting the open road.

There are a few benefits to living smaller, such as a cheaper cost of living, a simpler lifestyle. Some even say that it forces you to forgo domestication, which is sometimes a more forgiving description for "couch potato". On the whole, those living in smaller homes say they actually enjoy their life more since they rarely just sit around the house (considering it starts to feel more like a cage than a home if you're in it all the time).

But unless you're an outback type that can take a more rugged bare-needs lifestyle, chances are you're going to feel a bit luxury deprived, especially when it comes to your cooling needs as we embark on what's expected to be yet another scorching summer.

With summer ready to begin its season long roasting, plus the fact that smaller spaces get hotter faster and tend to retain heat, even the most conscientious of us can end up going a bit stir crazy.
Set Back Solutions

First, be under no delusions that your little piece of heaven will quickly turn into a little piece of hell as soon as summer heat and humidity sets in. The obvious solution is an air conditioner, but smaller spaces normally don't come equipped with a central AC. Installing a central AC is also out of the question because 1) it's not functionally practical and 2) it's far too costly an installment for such a small space. The solution? A portable air conditioner.

A portable air conditioner is a mobile cooling unit that doesn't require permanent installation. Portable air conditioners have two main parts: a box-like frame that holds both the hot and cold side of the unit, and an exhaust hose to expel heat. This exhaust hose needs to be placed near a window vent to ensure that unwanted hot air doesn't get re-circulated back into the room.

A portable air conditioner is a mobile cooling unit that doesn't require permanent installation. Portable air conditioners have two main parts: a box-like frame that holds both the hot and cold side of the unit, and an exhaust hose to expel heat. This exhaust hose needs to be placed near a window vent to ensure that unwanted hot air doesn't get re-circulated back into the room.
Some reasons why portable ac's have been gaining popularity is because they 1) usually come with air purifying filters, 2) are simple to use, 3) offer spot cooling, 4) are energy efficient, and 5) often offer multiple cooling modes, including fanning and dehumidification.

Right Size for Your Small Room

While portable AC's are great for cooling, there's an even better alternative if you're in a desert climate. Desert climates are notorious for dry air, in which case cooling just isn't enough. If you're in a desert zone, what you ideally need is to inject some moisture back into the air. While many people make the mistake of thinking a humidifier is enough, when really your ideal device is a swamp cooler, also known an evaporative cooler.

Swamp coolers produce effective cooling and can reduce the ambient temperature by up to 20 degrees through combining the natural process of water evaporation within a simple air moving system. Therefore, they provide a low-cost alternative to standard refrigerated cooling. Swamp coolers are pretty simple to use, but if you've never heard of one then it can be confusing. wamp coolers have the same effect as a wet towel or t-shirt on a fan. If the climate is dry and the humidity is low, the cooling (and sometimes even chilling) effect will be instantaneous. However in areas with high humidity levels, this process will only result in dampness on the skin and in the air - this is why it's best if these evaporative coolers are used only in dry climates.

And unlike ACs, where you will need to close all doors and windows, an evaporative cooler needs adequate air flow and ventilation in order to evenly and effectively distribute the cool air through the home and expel warm, moist air through window openings.

Choosing the Right Size Unit

Now whether you decide to go with a portable AC or a swamp cooler, you still need to make sure you get the right size for your room.

To figure out what type of unit you need, you first have to start off with the square footage of the area you want cooled - in this case it's 350 square feet. You then can get quick estimate of the BTUs you'll need by multiplying the square footage by 35. In the case of a 350 square foot room, the recommended BTU rating is approximately 8000.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home. A premier online retailer of residential/commercial cooling, Air Conditioner Home is dedicated to raising consumer awareness on green issues & promoting both air purification and eco-friendly cooling.

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